Every Young Man

Listen Download Print Share

… has a duty to God. Now the award’s flexible enough that every young man can earn it.

It’s November, but in Nevada it’s still hot. Hot enough that most teenage boys would rather be inside than sweating out a Saturday morning service project.

Why are these young men braving the burning desert sun? It’s not for the free can of soda pop. What began as a project to fill a Duty to God requirement, became a lesson in the joy of service.

More Good for More People

The expanded requirements for the new Duty to God Award have created more opportunities to help more people through an increased number of quorum activities and individual projects.

For one of their activities, the young men in the Desert Breeze Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Lakes Stake, came to the aid of recent convert, Kyoko Fuller, an 82-year-old widow who speaks mostly Japanese.

The young men cut dried-out fronds from three neglected palm trees behind her house, stripped away the overgrown bark, and hauled off the piles of dead growth.

“How much I pay?” she asked when the young men told her they’d clean up her yard and take care of the palm trees. “Oh no,” she said when they told her it was free. “I pay how much?” They didn’t take any money, but they enjoyed the drinks she offered after they had worked under the desert sun for two hours.

“This was fun,” says Matt Erickson, a teacher. “Kyoko’s great, and it was fun to help her out. The work was kind of hard, but it went fast.”

The young men feel the same way about the Duty to God program in general: hard work, but worth it.

Meeting the Challenge

Sure, the new requirements are a challenge. To earn the deacon, teacher, and priest Duty to God certificates, a young man must accomplish eight goals in each of the four personal development categories: spiritual, physical, personal, and social development. That’s 96 goals in all from deacon to priest.

On top of that, there are three other sections with requirements: Priesthood Duties, Family Activities, and Quorum Activities. By the end of the program the Aaronic Priesthood holder will have, among other things:

  • Kept a journal.

  • Invited a friend to church.

  • Learned to keep to a budget.

  • Prepared for a patriarchal blessing.

  • Taught at least three quorum lessons.

  • Prepared a four-generation pedigree chart.

  • Completed three Duty to God service projects.

  • Memorized six hymns and the sacrament prayers.

  • Accompanied a full-time missionary at least twice.

  • Participated in baptisms for the dead (where possible).

  • Participated in at least one quorum service project every year.

  • Read the Book of Mormon twice and For the Strength of Youth three times.

  • Organized and taught (under his parents’ direction) four family home evening lessons each year.

It can seem almost overwhelming when lumped all together. But spread over six years, what looks impossible really isn’t. Enough goals are provided that the young men may choose goals they can achieve. And in each category, Young Men leaders may modify requirements to meet individual needs, so that all young men—even those with special challenges (see accompanying story, “Fulfilling Their Duties to God”)—not only fulfill their duty to God but earn the award for doing so.

“We want every young man to earn the award because it is a progressive education that will prepare them for what they will have to face as adults,” says Elder F. Melvin Hammond, Young Men general president. “It will help them get to the temple and go on missions.”

“Working on the award is good for me,” says Ken Huffman, a teacher in the Desert Breeze Ward. “It really helps keep me on the right track.” Ken says that setting and reaching his goals has helped his faith to grow and has strengthened his testimony.

“And my mom loves it,” he says. “All parents like to see their kids studying the scriptures.”

[photos] Photography by Adam C. Olson

[photos] Spending a hot autumn morning doing heavy yard work meant more than fulfilling a requirement for young men (right) in the Desert Breeze Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Lakes Stake. Ken Huffman (opposite page) and the other young men were doing their duty to God.

[photos] Chance Comrie and his brother Jade cut palm fronds (top) and remove dead growth with Christian Childs (below, right). Richard and Stephen Frustaci (opposite page) don’t have to worry about physical challenges keeping them from earning the new Duty to God Award.

Fulfilling Their Duties to God

Like all young men, Stephen and Richard Frustaci have a duty to God. But until the Duty to God program was changed and expanded two years ago, they probably wouldn’t have been able to receive the award.

Stephen and Richard, both priests in the Fort Apache Ward, Las Vegas Lakes Stake, were born with mild cerebral palsy, a condition that can impair speech, vision, reflexes, and learning. But it doesn’t mean they can’t try to do many of the same things other youth enjoy. And it doesn’t mean they don’t have a duty to God.

It just means they have to approach things a little differently; they have to be flexible. So they appreciate the new Duty to God program, which was redesigned to be adaptable, so that every young man can earn it regardless of his physical, financial, or family circumstances.

“It is our great desire that there is never one who will be excluded,” says Elder F. Melvin Hammond, Young Men general president. “There are some requirements that some young men may not be able to accomplish. But it is our hope that they’ll set the goals they can attain and move forward as spiritual giants in this kingdom.”

Growing Giants

When Stephen and Richard were born in 1985, twins were exciting, triplets happened occasionally, and quadruplets were rare. That septuplets were even possible was a relatively new idea.

Being in the first set of septuplets born in the United States brought a lot of attention to their family. Sadly, only Stephen, Richard, and their sister, Patti, survived the first few weeks, and the brothers were left battling cerebral palsy. Soon all the attention diminished, and the brothers would learn that being different isn’t easy.

“They’ve had to deal with a lot of teasing growing up because they couldn’t do some of the things other kids were doing,” says their father, Sam.

When their friends or family members play sports, Stephen’s and Richard’s participation is limited. But the two boys don’t see themselves as handicapped. They always give everything their best shot.

For example, when Richard (whose reflexes are better than Stephen’s) got a skateboard, Stephen wanted to ride it too. He didn’t give up until he had learned to balance and roll slowly down the street.

“He’s got real stick-to-itiveness,” Brother Frustaci says. “Neither of them gives up.”

Every Young Man

The Frustaci brothers’ challenges haven’t kept them from enjoying life. Stephen loves to play with the dogs, read, and run. He recently made his school track team. Richard loves music, skateboarding, and playing water polo.

Their challenges also won’t keep them from earning the Duty to God Award.

“There are some requirements Stephen won’t be able to do,” stepmom Toni says, “and some might have to be modified. But I think kids with challenges would be able to accomplish most of these requirements.”

Among the Duty to God goals for priests are to get a part-time job (something Stephen hasn’t been able to find yet), get a driver’s license (something he probably won’t ever be able to do—much to his dismay), and hike 15 miles with a pack in two days or less (the 15 miles is fine, but the pack is out).

Even so, with a little help the brothers are capable of completing enough requirements in each category to earn the award—which is only fitting, since like every young man, these brothers have a duty to fulfill and a desire to fulfill it.

[photo] Photography courtesy of the Frustaci family

Adam C. Olson is a member of the Bountiful 20th Ward, Bountiful Utah South Stake.